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09
Sep

Manufacturer Proposes Increase in Bee-Toxic Pesticide on Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2014) Multinational pesticide manufacturer Syngenta has petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to raise the allowable levels of a systemic pesticide on a number of crops. In certain cases, such as hay from wheat, the company is asking for a 400x increase in the tolerance level set by the federal agency. The pesticide in question is thiamethoxam, a member of the neonicotinoid class of insecticides that have been widely implicated in global pollinator declines.

Many of the requested tolerance increases are for crops that end up as feed for livestock, but are also foraged by pollinators. For example, Syngenta is requesting increases on sweet corn used as forage from 0.1 parts per million (ppm) to 5.0 ppm – a 50x increase. The company is also requesting new tolerances on known bee-attractive crops; while tolerances on sunflower are currently 0.02 ppm, the company is requesting a new tolerance for sunflower seeds at 0.4 ppm. As explained to Greenwire, Syngenta is asking for the tolerance increases because it wants to use the chemical as a leaf spray for late season crops, in addition to its use as a seed treatment.

While SyngentaAngela Coday Nashville TN Bumblebees on Sunflower in our garden is proposing to increase the use of these chemicals in the U.S., the European Union (EU) will soon mark the one year anniversary of a moratorium on the use of these wildlife-poisoning pesticides. After careful study of the literature, the European Commission determined that neonicotinoid pesticides pose “high acute risks” to bees. Recent scientific evidence, from a Harvard University study to a Worldwide Integrated Assessment, strengthens the EU’s decision to restrict these chemicals. Although the chemical industry has attempted to subvert the science surrounding its widely used pesticides using PR tricks borrowed from Big Tobacco, the evidence is clear that pollinator declines are No Longer A Big Mystery.

Syngenta claims that foliar applications will be more likely to stick to the leaves of crops, and thus are less risky to pollinators; but the fact remains that these chemicals are systemic and persistent, and any amount applied will contaminate soil, and has potential the be expressed in the crop’s pollen, nectar, and guttation (dew) droplets on which pollinators forage and drink. Researchers note that pollinator concerns should be addressed on both crops that are pollinated or foraged by bees. Research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology reveals that thiamethoxam can persist in for soil nearly a year. And its breakdown chemical is anything but innocuous; it is clothianidin, another neonicotinoid pesticide that itself has a reported half-life of up to 6,931 days. Persistence in the soil means that these chemicals can be repeatedly taken up by crops and other plants that are pollinator-attractive in agricultural areas. And when they do not bind to soil, neonicotinoids are widely found in our waterways. A USGS study published in July of this year found thiamethoxam in 47% of Midwestern waters, and its breakdown clothianidin in 75%.

The massive bee kill in Oregon last year shows what can occur when neonicotinoids are used as foliar sprays. Syngenta’s requested tolerance increase comes at a time when researchers are discovering that even “near-infinitesimal” exposure to this class of pesticides can result in harm to honey bees and other wild pollinators. While bees may not die outright, exposure may result in insurmountable stress, weaken bees’ immune systems, impact bees’ learning and memory, and adversely affect their feeding and communication.

Rather than eliminating the use of these chemicals by working with farmers, beekeepers, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, and listening to the calls from consumers concerned about the one in three bites that honey bees provide for their dinner plates, Syngenta and Bayer, the two manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides, have opted to go on the offensive, suing the EU on its decision to suspend their products. A report published in July from the United Kingdom’s (UK) Environmental Audit Committee concluded that pesticide manufacturers had too much control over the vital research examining the link between their products and bee deaths. Yet, even with this undue influence, the company had to withdraw an emergency petition to allow neonicotinoid use on canola crops in the UK.

In response to abysmal, nonexistent product stewardship from these companies, those affected have had to craft their own counter-measures. Recently, beekeepers in Canada filed suit against Syngenta. Sun Parlor Honey and Munro Honey allege that Syngenta and Bayer were negligent in the design, sale, manufacture, and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides, and this negligence caused the plaintiffs to suffer $450 million in damages. In March 2013, Beyond Pesticides and a coalition of beekeepers, environmental, and consumer groups sued EPA for their approval of clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Despite these calls, inaction from government regarding irresponsible industry actions allows bee declines to continue unabated. In September 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found serious deficiencies in EPA’s conditional registration system, the means through which the agency originally allowed the insecticide clothianidin. And research to be published in the October issue of Bioscience highlights how EPA favors industry in pesticide safety evaluations.

During Pollinator Week 2014, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum directing agencies to “reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels.” Certainly, an increase in the tolerance level for a neonicotinoid implicated in causing these pollinator losses would be a step backwards for pollinator health, and not in line with the President’s call. You can take action and urge EPA to not simply reject increases in the use of bee toxic pesticides, but instead go further, and follow the lead of the Fish and Wildlife Service, which banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on all National Wildlife Refuges.

The comment period for the industry petition to allow more thiamethoxam residues on crops is open until October 6, 2014. To make your voice heard go to regulations.gov, under the docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPP-2014-0467-0001. And to become more involved in advocating for pollinator health, visit the BEE Protective webpage, and contact Beyond Pesticides at info@beyondpesticides.org.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Greenwire, Federal Register

Photo Source: Angela Coday, Nashville, TN

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08
Sep

Doctor Links Allergic Reaction to Antibiotics Used in Food Eaten by Child

(Beyond Pesticides, September 8, 2014) It was quite a shock that a blueberry pie could give a 10-year old girl such a terrible allergic reaction that it led her to be taken to the hospital. She experienced facial flushes, hives and irregular breathing. Fortunately, she recovered in the hospital after they treated her with epinephrine. Even though the girl has asthma and allergies to milk and penicillin, it was not the pie she had the allergic reaction to, but the residue of an antibiotic found in the blueberries.

blueberry-pie-natural-lightIn order to understand why she had those reactions, doctors tested her for allergies to ingredients within the pie and all came up negative. When they discovered that the blueberries had been contaminated with streptomycin, they gave her an allergy test. She had all the same reactions. Further research done by scientists solidified the fact that the blueberries had been contaminated with the antibiotic. While streptomycin is used to treat infections in people, it is also used in industrial agriculture, mixed with pesticides that are used on crops in attempts to stop bacteria and blight. According to the lead author of the study, Anne Des Roches MD, this is the first time an allergic reaction has been linked to fruits treated with antibiotic-laden pesticides.

In 2013, Beyond Pesticides, along with other organizations, led the charge to remove antibiotics from organic apple and pear production because it contributes to antibiotic resistance. Until 2013, both oxytetracycline and streptomycin were allowed for use in organic production, after numerous years of National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) phase-out extensions. Consumers have an expectation that their organic foods are being produced without the use of antibiotics. Organic has been uniquely markets as “no antibiotics” and Beyond Pesticides will continue to support consumer demand for an antibiotic-free diet.

Unfortunately, these antibiotics will continue to be used on non-organic crops, given the absence of a framework that encourages least-toxic alternatives that do not cause undue harm to human health or the wider environment. Organic agriculture can supply us with healthy food without the use of toxic chemicals.

It is important to eat organic food –nurtured in a system of food production, handling and certification that rejects hazardous synthetic chemicals. USDA organic certification is the only system of food labeling that is subject to independent public review and oversight, assuring consumers that toxic, synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture are replaced by management practices focused on soil biology, biodiversity, and plant health. This eliminates commonly used toxic chemicals in the production and processing of food that is not labeled organic –pesticides that contaminate our water and air, hurt biodiversity, harm farm workers, and kill bees, birds, fish and other wildlife.

With more and more Americans eating organic food, it is important to take action to ensure a strong organic program and increase public trust in the organic food label. Eating with a Conscience looks at the toxic chemicals that are allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organics page for information on what you can do to secure an organic future.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: News on Wellness, Livescience

 

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05
Sep

Study Finds EPA Favors Industry in Pesticide Safety Evaluations

epa_seal_profiles(Beyond Pesticides, September 5, 2014) A study published in a scientific journal finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) favors the chemical industry when making determinations on pesticide safety. Under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), EPA conducts risk assessments to determine whether a new or existing chemical is eligible for registration or reregistration and therefore able to enter or remain on the market. The study’s conclusions raise serious concerns for both environmental and human health protection because of EPA’s practice of inviting bias and underestimating potential harm.

The study, which will be in the October issue of BioScience, highlights the case of atrazine, an herbicide that has been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, birth defects, and reproductive effects. In their study, Michelle Boone, Ph.D., of Miami University, and her colleagues find that most pesticide toxicity tests used in risk assessments are conducted by pesticide manufacturers themselves. The authors contend that this can result in conflicts of interest. Additionally, strict methodological criteria, such as the types of containers in which exposed specimens are raised, often mean that potentially relevant studies are barred from EPA’s assessment process. The agency reassessed atrazine based on a sole, manufacturer-funded study, finding it to be safe to amphibians despite a plethora of other studies that could have resulted in a very different conclusion.

Other problems cited by the researchers regarding EPA’s risk assessment practices include the “inconsistent application of criteria among taxonomic groups and an over-reliance on laboratory studies.” Cumulatively, these issues indicate a “presumption of innocence” that Dr. Boone and her colleagues assert may be inappropriate for the evaluation of potentially harmful substances. The authors of the study conclude that “the risk assessment process can and should be improved so that decisions are made with the best available data with an evidence-based approach,” and suggest several recommendations for reform, including the use of an independent third-party that separates industry and research and subsequently reduces the concern over conflicts of interest. They also recommend the use of all available research, particularly field studies, and increased transparency of the assessment process.

Dr. Boone’s frustration with the agency began in 2012 when she served as an expert on a panel that was part of EPA’s reassessment of atrazine. She was astounded to witness the blatant disregard by EPA officials for the panel’s unanimous conclusion that the scientific literature found atrazine to disrupt the reproductive development of amphibians, and should be subject to further investigation. Dr. Boone’s experiences were not new for the agency –expert panels on the same topic from 2003 and 2007 had come to similar conclusions, yet EPA still found atrazine to have no adverse effects on amphibians. “You wonder why you’re even there, to repeat things that have already been said, and then to be ignored for reasons that are unclear,” Dr. Boone told Newsweek.

Atrazine has also been linked to the feminization of male frogs in the wild. A 2002 study conducted by Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., at the University of California, Berkeley found that these frogs, when exposed to low doses in the parts per billion (ppb) range, developed dramatic female sexual characteristics, including retarded gonadal development and hermaphroditism. When a class action lawsuit threatened to remove the controversial herbicide from the market, atrazine manufacturer Syngenta Crop Protection launched an aggressive multi-million dollar campaign. A 2013 report revealed that the pesticide giant routinely paid “third-party allies” to appear to be independent supporters, keeping a list of 130 people and groups it could recruit as experts without disclosing ties to the company. The company, the report found, also purportedly hired a detective agency to investigate scientists on a federal advisory panel, looking into the personal life of a judge and commissioning a psychological profile of Dr. Hayes. His struggle with Syngenta was documented by The New Yorker earlier this year. It is no surprise that companies like Syngenta, a manufacturer of the herbicide, would go to such far lengths to protect their bottom line -atrazine is the second-most widely used pesticide active ingredient used in the U.S. agricultural market sector, according to EPA’s most recent estimates.

Dr. Boone is not the first and only critic of EPA’s pesticide risk assessment process. Evaggelos Vallianatos, the author of Poison Spring and a former employee of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, lambasts the agency’s faulty, industry-tainted, and potentially harmful regulatory decision making process in a recent Huffington Post article, and recommends “redesigning the EPA to be a Federal Reserve-like organization, independent of polluters and their lobbyists in the White House and Congress.”  Beyond Pesticides also supports an alternatives assessment approach that differs dramatically from a risk assessment-based policy by rejecting uses and exposures deemed acceptable under risk assessment calculations, but unnecessary because of the availability of safer alternatives.

You can avoid eating food grown with harmful synthetic pesticides and reduce their environmental contamination by eating organic. For more information on organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture program page. Additionally, in an effort to ensure that the essential independent scientific research on pesticides is not thwarted by the chemical industry, Beyond Pesticides has launched The Fund for Independent Science. This fund, catalyzed by last year’s announcement that Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D. has lost university funding for his laboratory and research, is set up and run by Beyond Pesticides. Your support can enable the continuation of Dr. Hayes critical research, and support the other work of independent scientists. Make a pledge today.

You can learn more about atrazine and Dr. Hayes’ work by watching a full presentation of his talk at the 31st National Pesticide Forum held in Albuquerque, NM.

Source: Newsweek, EurekAlert

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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04
Sep

Canadian Beekeepers File Class Action Lawsuit Against Makers of Neonicotinoids

(Beyond Pesticides, September 4, 2014) Beekeepers in Ontario, Canada are tired of losing bees and have decided to take matters into their own hands by filing a class action lawsuit against two makers of neonicotinoids. According to The Globe and Mail, the lawsuit alleges that Syngenta and Bayer CropScience were negligent in the design, sale, manufacture, and distribution of neonicotinoid pesticides and this negligence caused the plaintiffs, Sun Parlor Honey and Munro Honey, to suffer $450 million in damages. These alleged damages are based on losses from damaged or lost bee colonies, decreased honey production, lost profits, and unrecoverable costs —all because of neonicotinoids.

Gary Tate Riverside CA Honey Bee taking flight Riverside CaNeonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine and are pesticides that are toxic to a broad range of insect pests. They are also known as systemic pesticides, which are pesticides that spread throughout the entire plant structure, making everything from roots to pollen toxic to organisms that come in contact with it. As a result of neonicotinoids systemic nature, pre-treatment practices, and other factors these dangerous pesticides have been linked to the global disappearance of honey bees and other non-target organisms, such as earthworms, birds, and aquatic invertebrates.

For honey bees, the impacts have been astounding, with annual average bee loses jumping significantly over the past several years.  In Canada alone during the past six years, honey bee losses have averaged 30 percent annually —this is compared to the previous norm of 15 percent annual average loses.

While many causes of these honey bee declines have been cited, including a combination of pesticides, parasitic mites, viruses, cold winters, decreased foraging habitat, and the stresses placed on colonies when they are moved among farms, scientists and bee experts agree that neonicotinoids significantly contribute to bee deaths both directly through contact exposure and indirectly through weakening the bees and making them more vulnerable to pathogens and other stressors.

Neonicotinoids, like imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam, have already been given two-year moratorium in the European Union (EU). Despite calls for similar action from beekeepers and environmentalists, Canadian officials, and their counterparts in the U.S., have refused to follow suit. And although some success in the form of local ordinances has occurred in both the United States and Ontario, Canada as well as policy shifts within some U.S. federal agencies, the Canadian beekeeper lawsuit demonstrates the desperation of beekeepers everywhere seeking relief on a broader scale.

Here in the U.S. courts, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, and U.S. beekeepers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 calling for a ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam, which are used extensively on corn, soybean and canola seeds.

Join Beyond Pesticides in supporting beekeepers across North America in their fight against neonicotinoids and learn the many ways you can BEE Protective by visiting our website!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Photo Source: Gary Tate, Riverside, CA

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03
Sep

In Coverup of Illegal Pesticide Use, Applicator Gets Two Year Prison Sentence

(Beyond Pesticides, September 3, 2014) The U.S. Justice Department sentenced Steven A. Murray, a pesticide operator with Bio-Tech Management in Pelham, Georgia, to two years in prison last week after as a result of charges related to a cover up illegal pesticide applications made at over 100 nursing homes. Mr. Murray pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, three counts of false statements, two counts of mail fraud, and 10 counts of unlawful use of a registered pesticide. In addition to being sentenced to two years in prison, Murray was subject to a $7,500 fine. His company was placed on three years of probation and also required to pay a $50,000 fine.

Felderlyhospital_smallrom October 2005 to June 2009, Mr. Murray and Bio-Tech provided monthly pest control services to hundreds of nursing homes in several southern states including Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama by spraying pesticides in and around their clients’ facilities. Bio-Tech employees routinely applied the pesticide Termidor indoors, contrary to the manufacturer’s label instructions, and then created false service reports to conceal that illegal use. After the Georgia Department of Agriculture made inquiries regarding Bio-Tech’s illegal use of Termidor and other pesticides, Mr. Murray directed several of his Bio-Tech employees to alter company service reports with the intent to obstruct the investigation. Mr. Murray and his co-conspirators allegedly falsified service reports to say that they used CyKick T, a pesticide that does not exist. The indictment goes on to allege that Bio-Tech sent invoices through the U.S. Mail to their clients to solicit payment for the unlawful pesticide applications.

“This case is particularly disturbing because of the defendants’ intentional disregard for the well-being of a vulnerable group of victims whose safety was entirely in the defendants’ hands,” said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore for the Middle District of Georgia. “This sentence is a just punishment for them and a stern warning to others who might be similarly tempted in the future.”

Fipronil, the active ingredient in Termidor, is a systemic pesticide that has been linked to a number of adverse health effects in humans. The chemical is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Group C, possible human carcinogen, based on increases in thyroid tumors in rats. After exposure to the fipronil, the chemical is rapidly metabolized in the body and widely distributed in tissues where significant amounts of residues can remain in fat and fatty tissues, especially when exposed to high or chronic doses. Acute exposure to fipronil results in headache, nausea, dizziness and weakness. However, studies link chronic exposure to neurotoxicity, cancer, and endocrine disruption.

The non-labeled use of this pesticide is extremely concerning, given that Mr. Murray and his company exposed the elderly, a sensitive population group, to potentially both the acute and chronic impacts of fipronil. The elderly are also more likely to be on medication, and very little is known about the synergistic effects of combining pesticide exposure and pharmaceuticals.

“The defendant exposed patients to harmful pesticides which jeopardizing their health and safety and tried to cover it up by submitting false reports. EPA and its partner agencies are committed to holding these kinds of dangerous actions accountable to the law,” said Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Georgia. Before the plea deal, Mr. Murray faced a prison sentence of over 650 years and $10 million in fines. However, while charges of conspiracy and false statements carry a five year prison term, and mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years, unlawful use of a pesticide only carries a jail sentence of up to 30 days. This vast disparity highlights a serious flaw in the United States’ current pesticide laws. If Mr. Murray had not tried to cover up his illegal applications, he may have only been charged with the 10 counts of unlawful use of a pesticide, for a total of a mere 300 day potential jail sentence. It was only Murray’s abhorrent attempts to cover up this gross violation that gave him the prison sentence. Given U.S. Attorney’s strong statements regarding the risk Mr. Murray put nursing home residents, it is evident that the current punishment for pesticide violations is simply not an adequate deterrent to the illegal use of these products.

Beyond Pesticides has a long history of advocating for safer approaches to pest control in nursing homes and other health care facilities. In 2008, Beyond Pesticides and the Maryland Pesticide Network (MPN) released a report titled Taking Toxics Out of Maryland’s Health Care Sector, documenting the practices and policies health care facilities can take to eliminate toxic pesticide use. Beyond Pesticides and MPN continue to work closely with D.C-Baltimore area hospitals to encourage pest control practices that eliminate toxic pesticide exposure, and keep with the medical profession’s basic tenet of “first, do no harm.” Additional information on Beyond Pesticides health care facilities project can be found on the Healthy Hospitals program page.

Source: AL.com, United States Department of Justice Press Release

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02
Sep

U.S. Representative Questions EPA’s Risk Assessment of 2,4-D-Based Herbicide

(Beyond Pesticides, September 2, 2014) U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week asking them a poignant question: Why didn’t the human health risk assessment of Dow’s newest 2,4-D-based herbicide apply the ten-fold safety factor required by national law to protect children and infants?

The question is a good one and events leading up to it began back in April 2014, when EPA opened up a public comment period for Dow AgroSciences’s application to expand the use of its 2,4-D choline salt herbicide, known as Enlist Duo®, on 2,4-D-tolerant corn and soybeans. This application was the next step in ushering in a new wave of genetically-engineered (GE) crops sought to replace the quickly waning glyphosate-resistant or Roundup Ready® varieties.

childcornAs EPA described on its Enlist-Duo® webpage, “Weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to glyphosate-based herbicides and are posing a problem for farmers. If [the Enlist Duo® application is] finalized, this action would provide an additional tool to reduce the spread of glyphosate resistant weeds.”

In other words, because of the overuse of glyphosate on GE glyphosate-resistant crops and the resulting development of weeds across the U.S. showing resistance to glyphosate, chemically-dependent farmers remain desperate for another chemical. The application for approval of the new Enlist Duo® uses follows on the tail of a similar application from Dow to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deregulate the GE corn and soybean seeds developed to withstand application of Enlist Duo®.

Although a new pesticide-use application and registration requires several important components, one of the primary components is the human health risk assessment. In this document, EPA must review the proposed pesticide’s use and examine it against the known toxicological hazards of the chemical and its exposure (ranging from dietary to occupational) risks.

Under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), these toxicological reviews and risk assessments must also consider the increased risks that pesticides pose to children and infants and apply a ten-fold safety factor in many instances.

As Rep. Waxman’s letter reminds the EPA, “The ten-fold safety factor] resulted from a recommendation in a report by the National Research Council that ‘the 10-fold factor traditionally used by EPA and FDA for fetal developmental toxicity should also be considered when there is evidence of postnatal developmental toxicity and when data from toxicity testing relative to children are incomplete.’”

EPA’s human health risk assessment for Enlist Duo® decided not to apply the ten-fold safety factor and found that “the toxicology database is adequate to assess this [Enlist Duo’s] proposed use” and that “[t]here are no residual uncertainties for pre-and/or postnatal toxicity.”

Troubled by this finding, Rep. Waxman enlisted the expertise of Dr. Philip Landrigan, the former chair of the National Research council Committee on Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children. According to the Representative’s letter, after reviewing the EPA’s report and, specifically, the EPA’s justification for not using the ten-fold child-protective safety factor, Dr. Landrigan concluded that the database for assessing potentially harmful health endpoints of 2,4-D was thin and appeared to be based entirely on old studies. Dr. Landrigan also pointed out, among other issues, that it appeared that the developmental toxicity data relied on by EPA to justify its finding consisted of only two studies, a 1983 study on pregnant rats and a 1990 study on pregnant rabbits.

To remedy these deficiencies, Rep. Waxman’s asked the EPA for a better and more complete explanation of both the studies used, assumptions based on those studies, and decisions to exclude certain exposure routes in the assessment.

Right to Be Concerned About 2,4-D

Rep. Waxman, who has long advocated for improved protections from pesticides, has every right to be concerned about the EPA’s seemingly incomplete and unsubstantiated reasoning for waiving the ten-fold safety factor. A chemical first registered in the late 1940s, 2,4-D is infamously known as one of the two ingredients in Agenct Orange -a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D used by the military to defoliate Vietnam’s forests during the Vietnam War. Both health and environmental effects of this dangerous chemical have been scientifically documented, yet fail to be integrated into the EPA’s outdated and industry-skewed risk assessment protocols.

As noted in Beyond Pesticides’ comments submitted to the EPA on Enlist Duo®, no decision should be made on the chemical before the final assessments on all human and ecological effects of the other 2,4-D forms are completed, given the expected expansion of 2,4-D use patterns. Similarly, a thorough FQPA analysis needs to be conducted given that dietary residues and exposures are expected to increase and have not been properly analyzed.

Beyond Pesticides applauds Rep. Waxman’s effort to scrutinize EPA analysis and call for the appropriate application of important child and infant protection standards against dangerous pesticides. Visit our GE webpage to find out other ways to stop the damaging health and environmental effects of GE crops and advance organic practices as an alternative!

Source: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce

Photo Source: Image courtesy of Cornwall Tourism

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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29
Aug

Groups Petition Federal Government to Protect Monarch Butterflies

(Beyond Pesticides, August 29, 2014) Environmentalists issued a legal petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday calling for the protection of the monarch butterfly as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Monarch butterflies, a striking and familiar symbol of beauty and nature in the U.S., have had their population decline by a staggering 90 percent in the past two decades alone, most likely due to a significant loss of habitat of more than 165 million acres – an area about the size of Texas -as well as nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds.

Part oDiane St John Durham CT We planted a lot of Zinnia seeds and look who came over!f the decline of monarch butterflies stems from the loss of milkweed, a native plant where the butterflies lay their eggs and is their main food source. Although little use to farmers, milkweed is an important plant to butterflies, wasps, and bees. A recent study attributed the disappearance of milkweed plants primarily to the use of genetically-engineered (GE) corn and soybean crops. The widespread adoption of GE agriculture and the ever-growing use of herbicides are contributing extensively to the loss of milkweed areas. Scientists also point to the prolific use of herbicides in the Midwest eliminating these plants, and found that 70% of the losses of milkweed between 1995 and 2013 were located in agricultural areas. This study adds weight to previous reports linking GE crops, as well as climate change, to the decline of butterfly populations.

“Monarchs are in a deadly free fall and the threats they face are now so large in scale that Endangered Species Act protection is needed sooner rather than later, while there is still time to reverse the severe decline in the heart of their range,” said Lincoln Brower, Ph.D., in a Tuesday press release. Dr. Brower is a preeminent monarch researcher and conservationist, who has been studying the species since 1954.

The ESA allows species to be listed as “threatened” when they are at risk of becoming endangered in a significant portion of their range. This would allow for the protection of the species but also still allow the continuation of activities that promote their conservation, such as scientific research and monitoring, citizen monitoring and tagging, and non-commercial classroom and household rearing of monarchs for educational purposes.

The petition was issued to the Secretary of the Interior through the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety as co-lead petitioners. They are joined by the Xerces Society and Dr. Brower.

Monarch butterflies make their way from the U.S. and Canada, usually arriving in Mexico around the beginning of November, clustering by the thousands in the boughs of fir trees. Although the same trip occurs every year, no individual butterfly makes it twice, as the butterfly’s life span is too short. How the migration route lives on in the butterflies’ collective memory is an enduring scientific mystery. Researchers note that to compensate for the continued loss of habitat, refuges of milkweed must be set up to provide a source of food for butterflies.

The decline of monarch habitats is not the only environmental effect linked to the pervasive use of highly toxic herbicides and insecticides. For example, the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant “super weeds” is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory of herbicide use, according to a study conducted by Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup formulation, is one of the most widely used conventional pesticide active ingredients in the U.S. And, similar to monarch butterflies, honey bees and other wild bees have also been experiencing a drastic decline in numbers that has been linked to the prevalent use of neonicotinoids, which the Tuesday petition also touches on.

One way to combat these problems is to initiate organic farming practices. Beyond Pesticides supports organic agriculture as effecting good land stewardship and a reduction in hazardous chemical exposures for workers on the farm. The pesticide reform movement, citing pesticide problems associated with chemical agriculture, from groundwater contamination and runoff to drift, views organic as the solution to a serious public health and environmental threat. To attract beneficial insects like monarchs and protect their habitats in your own backyard, there are several steps you can take. Like any other living organisms, pollinators need food, water, and shelter in order to thrive. For more information, see Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind. You can also visit the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity for more ways in which you can protect our pollinator friends.

Pollinators are a vital part of our environment and a barometer for healthy ecosystems. Let’s all do our part to BEE Protective of these critical species. Please visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage to learn more about our efforts to save pollinators and what you can do to help.

Source: Newsweek

Photo Source: Diane St John (Durham CT)

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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28
Aug

School’s Back in Session, Leave the Toxins Behind

(Beyond Pesticides, August 28, 2014) It’s back to school time again, which for many of our readers and parents across the country means the unnerving possibility of hazardous pesticide exposure at school from well-intentioned but misguided attempts to create a germ and pest-free environment. Because children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure due to their small size and developing organ systems, using toxic chemicals to get rid of pests and germs harms students much more than it helps. Fortunately, parents and teachers have many options for safer techniques and strategies to implement a pest management program at schools without relying on these toxic chemicals. Additionally, schools can further their students’ education beyond the lessons of the text book by providing habitat for wildlife and growing organic food in a school garden. By going organic, your child’s school can become a model for communities across the nation.

Beyond Pesticides has put together this back-to-school checklist of programs and steps you can take to ensure that you are sending your kids back to a healthier and safer environment.

Get Organized and Improve Your School’s Pest Management Program

Whether you’re a parent, community activist, landscaper, school administrator or employee, use these steps to help successfully eliminate harmful pesticides from your local school. For more details, see our School Organizing guide.

  1. Identify the school’s pest management policy. You may be surprised to learn that your school is already making strides to prevent pesticide use in your school district, or that there are state or local policies in place that help safeguard your child from pesticides. Contact the appropriate school personnel to find out if and how applicable policies are being implemented by identifying what pest management controls the school is using, the pesticides used, and the notification program.
  2. Educate yourself and evaluate the program. Use Beyond Pesticides’ resources to learn about toxic chemical use and arm yourself with information about alternatives. See a Webinar featuring Beyond Pesticides’ executive director, Jay Feldman, Webinar: Effective Policies to Reduce Exposures to Pesticides in Schools.
  3. Organize the school community. Identify and contact friends and neighbors, teachers, staff, individuals and organizations who care about pesticide use at your school. It’s much easier to change policies with allies! Once you have a core group of individuals, develop and present a proposed policy for the school district to adopt.
  4. Work with school decision-makers. Contact appropriate school officials and ask for endorsement of the proposed policy. It’s important that your organic pest management program include a written policy adopted by the school district’s board to ensure that the program is institutionalized and will continue to flourish years after key organizers leave the district.
  5. Become a watchdog and establish an integrated or organic pest management committee. Make sure the school district is on track to improve its practices. Creating a committee to oversee the program helps ensure that the program is successfully implemented.

In addition, here are some other areas where you can improve the health of your school:

Fight Germs Without Triclosan

Because of its link to adverse health effects – including asthma, cancer and learning dis­abilities, triclosan has no place in the classroom. Beyond Pesticides has generated extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and its cousin triclocarban. Be sure your child’s school does not use antibacterial soaps; regular soap and water is just as effective at getting rid of bacteria.

It’s easy to avoid triclosan. Read the product label, whether it’s a backpack, school supplies, soap or sanitizer for any label statement that says “antibacterial,”or “antimicrobial protection.” Due to public pressure, many companies have reformulated their products without triclosan, and earlier this year, the state of Minnesota took critical steps to protect their residents from exposure to triclosan by banning the chemical in personal care and cleaning products.

Subtract Triclosan from the Equation: Tell your principal that you are concerned about the use of antibacterial soap and its impact on the health of the students and staff. Ask that the school order regular soap from its usual janitorial product supplier and that all cleansers and sanitizers used by the school be triclosan-free. Materials on the health impacts of triclosan are available at Beyond Pesticides. Sign the pledge and go triclosan-free.

Feed Children Organic Food

The American Academy of Pediatricians has stated that foods without pesticide residues are significant for children. If you are unable to eat all organic, purchase organic varieties of the foods you and your kids eat most often. For information on how to eat feed your family organic affordably, download Beyond Pesticides’ handy bi-fold brochure. You can also increase the amount of organic food your child eats while decreasing his or her exposure to toxic pesticides and lessening your impact on the environment by asking your school to adopt an organic lunch program or helping to start an organic school garden. For more information, on why eating organic is the right choice, see Eating with a Conscience.

It’s easiest to go organic when you grow organic. School gardens and other farm-to-school programs teach children where food comes from and establish healthy relationships with food and the natural world. An organic garden starts with healthy soil using natural sources of fertility such as compost, and schools have a great built-in source of potential compost feedstock in kitchen scraps and cafeteria leftovers. See “School Lunches Go Organic,” and “The Organic School Garden,” for more information.

Care About Kids

Early in 2013, EPA announced its decision to cancel the registration of 12 rodenticide products manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser LLC, the manufacturer of d-CON products. The company announced that it will stop production of rodent baits containing second generation anticoagulant rodenticides by the end of this year; however, retailers will be allowed to continue to sell these dangerous products until supplies are exhausted. The rodenticide products slated for cancellation pose significant risks to human health, and children are particularly susceptible to these risks because they play on floors and explore by putting items in their mouths, which can include loose rat poisons like d-CON. Because these products can still be found on the shelves of Walmart and several other national retailers, despite regulatory action to remove these products from the market, Beyond Pesticides has urged major retailers to stop selling these highly toxic rodenticides. Be sure that your school does not use these harmful rodenticides, by utilizing alternative measures to prevent rodent problems, including sealing gaps around the doors by replacing worn thresholds and weather stripping, and installing door sweeps, as well as caulking openings around water pipes, electric wires, cables, and vents. There are also many baits traps on the market that do not utilize toxic chemicals. For more information, go to Beyond Pesticides Care for Kids rodenticide page.

BEE Protective

Pollinators are very important to our ecosystem and agriculture. However, many pollinators, like honey bees, bumble bees, birds, and butterflies, are declining due to loss of habitat, widespread use of toxic pesticides, parasites, and disease. You and your school can play a part to help these important creatures by (1) not using toxic pesticides, (2) planting pollinator habitat, and (3) educating your friends and family.

Have your school pass a resolution to ban neonicotinoid pesticides that are toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. Vermont Law School recently passed a resolution to go neonicotinoid-free, and you can see our model resolution can be obtained here. If you school has pollinator-friendly habitat, pledge your school as pollinator-friendly and indicate how many acres (or fraction of an acre) your school can declare.

Build Biodiversity: from the School Grounds to the Classroom

Biodiversity helps bees and other pollinators; diverse plants produce a supply of nectar throughout the growing season, and biodiversity of soil organisms promotes healthy plants that grow well without poisons. Protect biodiversity through organic turf, playing fields and landscape policies. Encourage your school to plant pollinator-attractive plants in its garden as part of its biology class. If your school does not have a garden, request one be integrated into the curriculum. Wildflowers, native plant and grass species should be encouraged on school grounds. See our BEE Protective Habitat Guide for more information on attractive flowers. Also see our Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity factsheet and Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind for resources on how you can help build biodiversity.

Healthy Turf = Healthy Kids

Many school schools around the country are realizing that a well-defined integrated or organic pest management program is one of the best ways to eliminate children’s exposure to pesticides in school buildings, and organic turf management, similarly, eliminates hazards on playing fields and playgrounds. A good program will have strictly defined processes of prevention, monitoring and control, as well as record keeping, which offers the opportunity to eliminate harmful pesticides in schools, where only the least toxic option is used.

Improving a school’s pest management program requires perseverance, as administrators and grounds staff may be uninformed. One major selling point is that, when it comes to playing fields, organic turf management systems cost as much as 25% less than chemical-intensive systems. Learn more about the 30 of the most commonly used chemicals on athletic fields that can cause numerous health risks to children, including glyphosate (Roundup) and 2,4-D. Also see organic management of school fields in our Pesticides and Playing Fields fact sheet and the Lawns and Landscapes page.

For more information on how you can ensure a healthy school year for your child and community, see Beyond Pesticides’ Children and Schools page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

 

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27
Aug

Federal Court Blocks Local Pesticide and GE Law in Kauai

(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2014) Rulng that Hawaii state law preempts local authority to restrict pesticides, a federal court judge this week struck down Kauai County’s Ordinance 960. The ordinance, which received widespread support on the Island, was designed to protect local residents and Kauai’s environment from the year-round spraying of large quantities of restricted use pesticides by multinational chemical companies.hawaii

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren on Monday ruled that Kauai County Ordinance 960 is preempted by state law and therefore is unenforceable. Ordinance 960 provides residents of Kauai public access to information related to the application of pesticides used in experimental and commercial agricultural operations within the County of Kauai. It also affords County residents and the environment greater protection from, and information about, potential pesticide drift and the impact of experimental genetically engineered (GE) crops on Kauai. The Kauai County Council voted to enact Ordinance 960 in November 2013, overriding the Mayor’s veto. The ordinance was scheduled to go into effect Aug. 16, but had been postponed to Oct. 1 pending the court’s ruling.

Local leaders crafted the ordinance in response to public outcry from residents, many of whom live, work, or have children that go to school near agricultural fields leased by chemical corporations. Many in the community believed that Ordinance 960 was the beginning of local efforts to reign in excesses and abuses of agrichemical companies operating on the island.

However, a lawsuit challenging the ordinance was brought against Kauai by industry giants, DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Syngenta Seeds, Agrigenetics, Inc, (owned by Dow Chemical) and BASF Plant Sciences LP, who argued that the County had no authority to regulate pesticides and GE plantings because state and federal laws did so already, and that the ordinance places unnecessary and unfair restrictions on their operations. The County and interveners – Earthjustice, the Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, and others, countered that the state law is limited in its scope and does not cover the same subject matter as Ordinance 960, leaving room for the County to expand on pesticide regulatory guidelines. Similarly, the County argues that when it comes to GE cultivation, state laws did not “expressly or implicitly” preempt the County from introducing its own GE guidelines. When Kauai introduced Ordinance 960 (then Bill 2491) it did so under the statutory grant of authority of the Hawaiian Revised Statutes, which provides that counties of Hawaii “shall have the power to enact ordinances deemed necessary to protect health, life, and property. . .” (HRS § 46-1.5(13))

However, Magistrate Judge Kurren, in his interpretation, concluded that, although the Hawaii Pesticide Law does not contain any provisions that actually conflict with Ordinance 960’s requirements, the state law’s broad scope implied that the Hawaii legislature intended that only the state government had the authority to regulate pesticide matters.  The court also ruled that federal laws do not preempt the ordinance, leaving open the possibility that the state could amend its laws to protect its residents without running afoul of federal law.

“This decision in no way diminishes the health and environmental concerns of the people of Kauai,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry M. Kurren wrote in his decision. “The court’s ruling simply recognizes that the State of Hawaii has established a comprehensive framework for addressing the application of restricted-use pesticides and the planting of GMO crops, which presently precludes local regulation by the county.”

On Preemption

After the passage of the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the issue of federal preemption of local ordinances concerning pesticide regulation made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1991 that FIFRA does not preempt local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government. The ability of states to take away local authority, however, was left in place. The pesticide lobby immediately formed a coalition, called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, and developed model legislation that would restrict local municipalities from passing ordinances regarding the use or sale of pesticides on private property. The Coalition’s lobbyists descended upon states across the country, seeking and passing, in most cases, preemption legislation that was often identical to the Coalition’s wording.

Twenty-nine states have nearly identical preemption language that explicitly preempts localities from adopting stricter legislation that would regulate the use of pesticides; 14 do not have explicit preemption language. However, they delegate all of the authority to regulate pesticide law to a commissioner or pesticide board. This implies that localities seeking more restrictive pesticide regulations could petition the commissioner for a variance from the states pesticide law. Five states that vest exclusive regulatory authority in their commissioner specify that localities can petition the commissioner for exemptions to these pesticide regulations, and seven states do not preempt local authorities’ ability to restrict the use of pesticides on any land within their jurisdiction. Some of these states have no regulations that would preempt local authority and others have specific language written in that reaffirms localities’ authority. For more information, read  State Preemption Law: The battle for local control of democracy.

State preemption laws effectively deny local residents and decision makers their democratic right to better protection when a community decides that minimum standards set by state and federal law are insufficient. Given this restriction, local jurisdictions nationwide have passed ordinances that restrict pesticide use on a town’s public property, or school districts have limited pesticides on its land. As pesticide pollution and concerns over the effects of GE crops on human and environmental health mount, many are fighting to overturn preemption laws and return the power back to localities, enabling them to adopt more stringent protective standards throughout their communities.

The defendant-interveners are currently analyzing all legal options, including appeal. Four organizations –  Ka Makani Ho‘opono, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America and  Surfrider Foundation – represented by Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety, were permitted to intervene as of right in the lawsuit against Kauai County, and have since helped to defend the ordinance in legal filings.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff said the court’s decision was disappointing. He said, “It has unfortunate consequences on Kauai and throughout the state. The state has shown complete disregard for problems that the pesticides on Kauai has been causing.”

This latest decision also calls into question the future of other local pesticide regulatory efforts in other Hawaii counties. Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi said Hawaii County attorneys are analyzing its applicability to an ongoing case that challenges the Big Island’s ban on any new GE crops. However, the Hawaii County ordinance does not deal with pesticides. Similarly, Mayor Alan Arakawa of Maui County said that the Kauai court decision may be instructive for residents who will vote on a county ballot initiative this fall to ban GE crops in Maui, and the county’s attorneys are also reviewing the decision.

Gary Hooser, the Kauai councilman who sponsored the bill (Ordinance 960), also said that he expects the ruling to be appealed. “It’s just another round in the ongoing battle,” he said. “It’s far from over.” He criticized the biotechnology companies for not doing more to protect the health and safety of Kauai residents.

Beyond Pesticides continues to be an ardent supporter of Kauai’s commonsense protections from pesticides and their associated use on GE crops. Given the impending approval of GE crops designed to withstand applications of the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D, these protections are more important than ever.

Read Beyond Pesticides testimony in support of Ordinace 960 for additional information. If you’d like to become involved in a campaign in your community, send an email to info@beyondpesticides.org, or call 202-543-5450.

Source: Honolulu Civil Beat , The Center for Food Safety , NYTimes

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26
Aug

Oregon Spray Pilot Fined $10,000 for Pesticide Drift that Residents Say Poisoned Them

(Beyond Pesticides, August 26, 2014) Nearly a year after residents in Curry County Oregon were sprayed with herbicides, the pilot responsible for the incident had his license suspended for a year and was fined $10,000 by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). The Pacific Air Research helicopter_sprayCompany, which employed the pilot, was also fined $10,000 and had all its licenses revoked for a year for providing false information to the state. The initial incident happened in October 2013, when residents complained of experiencing rashes, headaches, asthma, and stomach cramps right after the application.

As reported in the The Oregonian, after the investigation, ODA was criticized by environmental groups and the general public for not doing a proper investigation. It took 6 months for any information to be disclosed even though the poisoned residents requested it. Pacific Air Research at the time of the incident stated that the only chemical being sprayed was glyphosate. Then, ODA conducted an investigation and concluded that the spray was not directly linked to the conditions displayed by residents. Unsatisfied with the state’s findings, a local environmental group, Beyond Toxics, forced ODA to produce all its records, which confirmed that 2, 4-D and triclopyr were the actual chemicals used. The group this month filed a lawsuit challenging portions of the Oregon Right to Farm and Forest Law (ORS30.936) on pesticide drift from forestry operations onto private property.

2, 4-D is a highly toxic chemical which has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, endocrine disruption, and kidney and liver damage. It is also neurotoxic and is toxic to beneficial insects (such as bees), earthworms, birds, and fish. Scientific studies have confirmed significantly elevated rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for farmers who use 2, 4-D. Triclopyr originally developed for woody plant and broadleaf weed control along rights – of- way and on industrial sites, triclopyr is also used in forest site preparation.

When we started realizing we were not dealing with accurate information, we quit sharing information with the local community,” ODA director Katy Coba told The Oregonian. “In hindsight, that’s the part where we clearly understand now that it caused a lot more consternation than if we’d continued sharing information. In the future, we would handle a similar situation much differently.”

Lisa Arkin, director of Beyond Toxics noted in The Oregonian that she was pleased to see the penalty, but said it happened only because of local residents’ persistence. ODA “came out swinging because the great research by the community and the community pressure that was put on the agency.”

In other states, the same information would be shared within hours, not months, she said.

“There’s no reason in the world why the Department of Agriculture withheld the information,” she said. “They put their civil investigation before public health.”

Unfortunately, spray incidents such as these are all too common. Triangle Lake, another Oregon Community has experienced similar pesticide exposures from the aerial application of herbicides to Timberland. In 2011, atrazine and 2, 4-D were found in the urine of residents around Triangle Lake. After these incidents, state and federal agencies launched the Highway 36 Corridor Public Health Exposure Investigation, which resulted in the Oregon State Forester requiring pesticide applicators to turn over three years of forestry pesticide spray records from private and state timber operations.

In Oregon, there are no required buffer zones around residential land, similar to those along fish-bearing streams, and the state does not require notification of residents near timberland. Timberland owners do have to notify the Oregon Department of Forestry, and people can pay a fee to receive those notifications, but they do not specifically disclose that chemicals that will be used, or the day and time of the spraying. Aerial herbicide application is also only used on private land as public forest land is managed without these practices.

For more information on forestry management practices watch Lisa Arkin’s talk from the 32nd National Pesticide Forum in Portland, Oregon. (Her talk begins at 19:53) Lisa Arkin has served as the Executive Director of Beyond Toxics since 2006, and helped publish the in-depth analysis of herbicide use in Oregon’s industrial forestry practices, Oregon’s Industrial Forests and Herbicide Use: A Case Study of Risk to People, Drinking Water and Salmon.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: The Oregonian

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25
Aug

California Passes Bill That Mandates Response to Bee Crisis, but Delays Action until 2020

(Beyond Pesticides, August 22, 2014) In a blow to the adoption of urgently needed protections for pollinators, the California State Senate voted 35-1, after an earlier Assembly vote of 75-0, to delay a requirement for action on bee-harming neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides until 2020. While advocates want mandates for regulatory action to protect bees, the timeline in the bill ignores that ongoing crisis faced by bees, beekeepers, and agriculture dependent on bee pollination. Assembly Bill 1789 provides the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CalDPR) another four years to reevaluate neonicotinoid pesticides, and an additional two years to implement any measures that would be needed to protect pollinator health. Given that CalDPR began its reevaluation of neonics in 2009, and existing law would have required a complete reevaluation within two years, the legislature’s new 2020 timeline has been met with strong criticism from beekeepers and environmental groups.

The passage of AB 1789 sets the CalDPR on a track similar to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) timeline for neonic review. This timeline is widely seen as an unacceptable response to the pollinator crisis, given unsustainable declines of greater than 30% of managed honey bee colonies each year, and widespread adverse impacts on other wild pollinators. “The Department of Pesticide Regulation has been dithering since 2009, while our bees continue to die in droves, and this bill essentially tells the department to sit on its hands for another six years,”  said Greg Loarie, attorney at EarthJustice, “AB 1789 will amount to a death sentence for honey bees.” Last December a broad coalition of more than 60 organizations, including Beyond Pesticides, launched a national media campaign to tell EPA that “Bees can’t wait 5 more years, and neither can we.”

A large and expanding collection of scientific literature links pollinator declines to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, a class of systemic insecticides that make their way into the pollen, nectar, and dew droplets on which pollinators forage. Scientists across the world are sounding the alarm on neonicotinoids and other systemic insecticides, and demanding action from legislators and regulatory bodies. According to a Wordwide Integrated Assessment undertaken by the Global Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, neonics and their breakdown products are persistent and harmful to pollinators and wildlife even at very low levels. Researchers explain, “The existing literature clearly shows that present day levels of pollution with neonicotinoids and fipronil caused by authorized uses, frequently exceed lowest observed adverse effect concentrations for a wide range of non-target species and are thus likely to have wide ranging negative biological and ecological impacts.” In a recent study published in the Bulletin of Insectology by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, pesticides, not mites or pathogens, as has been claimed by the chemical industry, were found to be the major cause of honey bee hive deaths. Even before the release of these two documents, an analysis of the science conducted by Beyond Pesticides had concluded that our pollinator crisis is “No Longer A Big Mystery.”

To the dismay of pollinator supporters, as the science continues to link the role of neonics in bee declines, the CalDPR has continued to allow expanded uses of neonicotinoids in the state. Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network, and Center for Food Safety, represented by Earthjustice, recently filed the legal challenge in the California Superior Court for the County of Alameda, urging the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to stop approving neonicotinoid pesticides pending its completion of a comprehensive scientific review of impacts to honeybees.

One in every three bites of food depends on bees for pollination, and the annual value of pollination services worldwide are estimated at over $125 billion. In the United States, pollination contributes $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually. And in California alone, almonds crops — entirely dependent on bees for pollination — are valued at over $3 billion. Last year, serious questions surrounded whether there would be enough honey bees available to pollinate the state’s almond crops. Without strong, meaningful protections for honey bees and other wild pollinators coming from government officials in California, these problems are not likely to subside.

At the end of Pollinator Week 2014, the President Obama directed executive agencies to develop a plan to address pollinator declines within 180 days. It is imperative those concerned about pollinator health put pressure on the President to protect pollinators from harmful pesticides, so that real long lasting protections come from this announcement. After all, given the success of organic production systems, these chemicals simply are not necessary to grow food or successfully manage pests.

To become more involved in pollinator protection, visit the BEE Protective campaign page. BEE Protective is a joint initiative launched by Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Food Safety, aimed at protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes.

Source: EarthJustice, California Legislative Information

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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22
Aug

Town Bans Land Application of Sewage Sludge, or Biosolids

(Beyond Pesticides, August 22, 2014) The Town Board in Wheatfield, New York unanimously voted last month to amend its biosolids law to ban any application of sewage sludge and other similar materials from the treatment of municipal wastewater to any land in town, even for those who already have permits from the state. The law reasons that the potential contamination of groundwater, surface water, and soil, as well as the potential for air pollution, poses an unreasonable risk to town residents, public health, and the environment.

Biosolids, otherwise known as sewage sludge, are composed of dried microbes previously used to process wastewater in treatment plants. The material is increasingly being used in conventional agriculture, but its application is explicitly forbidden in organic production. This is because the sludge can contain high concentrations of toxic contaminants, such as pesticides, detergents, estrogenic hormones, antibiotics, dioxins, PCBs, flame retardants, and heavy metals. A 2002 study revealed the material to be associated with an increased prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus infections, a condition known to cause skin rashes and respiratory problems, for people located in close proximity to biosolid application sites. More recently, new research adds to existing evidence of the hazards of sewage sludge fertilizer by demonstrating that chemical contaminants are sufficiently mobile and persistent that they can easily be transported to groundwater, with implication for local drinking water.

Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole explained that although the new law allows for the continuation of “existing facilities,” the amendment clarifies that land application is not considered an existing facility. “Any land application is not grandfathered,” Mr. O’Toole said. “There’s no application in Wheatfield, ever, for anything.”

The ban, which passed July 28, was interpreted as making an exception for existing Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permits, such as those held by Milleville Brothers Farm.

The controversy arose last year from the byproduct created by Quasar Energy Group’s anaerobic digester on Liberty Drive. The “equate,” or the watery, nitrogen-rich byproduct, is hyped by the company as a good fertilizer. The company’s plant uses microbes to convert food waste into methane gas, which is harnessed to produce electricity or compressed natural gas. However, part of its raw material is sewage sludge, which is processed human waste.

“I hope you’ll hold the Niagara County Sewer District No. 1 to the same standard,” Quasar spokesman Nathan C. Carr told the board. Unfortunately, however, the July 28 law exempts “the generation of biosolids at a public owned treatment works.”

The town’s law firm, Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel, blasted the DEC in a letter for attempting to rewrite its regulation according to the types of soil on which the biosolids may be spread, in an apparent effort to weaken the law and make it easier for application in Wheatfield to be permitted. The DEC contends that the omission of a common soil type in Wheatfield from the list of allowable biosolids sites was an accident. The letter said the attempted change violates two state laws and U.S. EPA guidelines.

The law cites the state’s Environmental Conservation Law, which allows for municipalities to impose controls on waste disposal operations that are stricter than the state law requires..

The amendments to the town law also add a penalty section to the measure, which includes fines and/or possible imprisonment for illegal land application or production or storage of biosolids. The sale, storage, or application of lawn and garden fertilizer intended for retail sale on an area of land less than 2.5 acres in size is excluded from the town law.

The only surefire way to avoid food grown with biosolids is to buy products that are USDA organic certified, which does not allow the use of dried municipal waste microbes in its production. Additionally,  be aware of products used on lawn and garden by scrutinizing any lawn fertilizers which claim to be “organic” or “natural” but list ingredients such as “biosolids,” “dried microbes,” or “activated sewage sludge.” For more information on the hazards of biosolids, read Beyond Pesticides’ Biosolids or Biohazards?

Source: Buffalo News

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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21
Aug

Antibacterial Soap Exposes Health Workers to High Triclosan Levels

(Beyond Pesticides, August 21, 2014) In case there wasn’t enough news about the hazards of the ubiquitous antibacterial chemical triclosan in the past week, another study published Tuesday finds additional risks associated with exposure to the pesticide. The study, Health Care Worker Exposures to the Antibacterial Agent Triclosan, led by researchers at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) finds that washing hands with antibacterial soap exposes hospital workers to significant and potentially unsafe levels of triclosan.

In the study, published in the August issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers analyze urine samples from two groups of 38 doctors and nurses at two hospitals, identified as Hospital 1 and Hospital 2. Hospital 1 used an antibacterial soap containing 0.3 percent triclosan, while Hospital 2 used plain soap and water. Workers at Hospital 1 had significantly higher levels of triclosan in their urine than workers at Hospital 2.

“Antimicrobial soaps can carry unknown risks, and triclosan is of particular concern,” said co-investigator Paul Blanc, MD, a professor of medicine at UCSF who holds the Endowed Chair in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “Our study shows that people absorb this chemical at work and at home, depending on the products that they use.”

Beyond Pesticides has compiled extensive documentation of the potential human and environmental health effects of triclosan and its cousin triclocarban. Studies show that triclosan can interfere with thyroid and estrogen hormones, and may promote the progression of cancer cells. Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and has been shown to affect male and female reproductive hormones and possibly fetal development. It is also shown to alter thyroid function. A recent study links triclosan to the growth of breast cancer cells.

Triclosan, a synthetic antibacterial agent, has been used for over 30 years in the U.S., and though its original uses were confined mostly to the health care settings, has grown over the last decade to be found in thousands of consumer products, including soaps, cosmetics, acne creams and some brands of toothpaste. The FDA is currently reviewing the safety of triclosan based on a growing body of research indicating that it can interfere with the action of hormones, potentially causing developmental problems in fetuses and newborns, among other health concerns. Meanwhile, private companies are phasing out triclosan from products due to direct pressure from educated consumers. Johnson & JohnsonProcter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive (with the exception of its toothpaste) began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for several years now.

In the current study, the scientists also asked the study participants if they used a popular commercial toothpaste containing triclosan. While those who did had higher triclosan levels than those who did not, the researchers found that washing with antibacterial soap accounted for even higher triclosan levels than did brushing with the toothpaste.

Dr. Blanc recommended that, “If non-triclosan-containing soaps are available, use the alternative. This is based on the precautionary principle – that is, if you don’t know for certain that something is unsafe, it’s better to err on the side of caution.”

The same principle “could be applied more generally in this case,” said Dr. Blanc. “It should not be up to the individual to inspect every product for triclosan. Instead, it’s the duty of the FDA to carry out a review of this chemical and, if indicated, get it off the market.”

For people who want to replace antibacterial products in their home with something safer, said Dr. Blanc, “just plain soap and water is a pretty good alternative.”

Encourage your local hospitals, schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free, or follow the lead of Minnesota by banning triclosan; organizations can adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan. For additional information and resources on the human health and environmental effects of triclosan, join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: University of California San Francisco

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20
Aug

Nearly Half of All U.S. Adults Seek Out Organic Food

(Beyond Pesticides, August 20, 2014) According to a new Gallup poll, nearly half of all U.S. adults “actively” seek to add organic food to their diets. Many who eat and incorporate organic foods into their diet are from city areas, whereas those who eat the least organic foods are described as coming from rural areas. Those who live in the western half of the country and are middle class were also more likely to eat organic food. The poll underscores the notion that many view the benefits of organic foods as greater than the perceived drawbacks, such as higher costs or limited access.

organicfoodsurveyThe Gallup poll, as reported by The Washington Post, polled about 1,000 adults across the country in July and found that Americans most likely to eat organic are in the West, live in a city, are 18 to 29 years old, vote Democrat or have an annual household income greater than $75,000. Those most likely to avoid organic foods are basically the opposite: those who live in the East, live in more rural parts, are age 65 or older, vote Republican or have an annual household income less than $30,000. This is the first year Gallup has asked about eating organic foods in the annual Consumption Habits survey.

Specifically, 45% of those polled actively try to include organic foods into their diet. The inclusion of organic foods is highest in the West (54%) and lowest in the East (39%). Americans who report living in a big or small city are more likely to eat organic foods than those who describe their location as a town or rural area, 50% versus 37%, respectively, while those who live in suburban areas fall between these two groups. While household income continues to be a factor in food choices, with almost half of upper-income Americans actively buying organic foods, a significant amount of lower-income Americans (42%) now include organic into their diets. The poll notes that “given that almost half of Americans actively try to include organic foods in their diets, they may view the benefits of organic foods as greater than their downsides, such as the higher cost or limited access.” While organic is associated with a “premium,” or more expensive cost, many say the cost of organic food simply reflects the true costs of production.

Overall, Gallup notes that income and location appear to be factors in preference for organic foods, although that may be changing. For instance, Wal-Mart, the largest retailer and grocer in the U.S., has announced plans to begin selling organic food, with the potential to make organic food more easily accessible and more affordable, which could in turn encourage more Americans to include it in their diets.

A similar 2014 poll by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) reports that consumption of organic products has continued to increase at a monumental pace. According to the survey, sales of organic products in the U.S. jumped to $35.1 billion in 2013, up 11.5% from the previous year’s $31.5 billion and the fastest growth rate in five years. The growth rate of organic food sales, which has averaged almost 10% every year since 2010, has dwarfed the average annual growth of just over 3% in total food sales during that same period, and now makes up 4 percent of the $760 annually spent on food. The fruit and vegetable category continues to lead the sector with $11.6 billion in sales, up 15%. With more than 10% of the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. now organic.

Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. An American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) report on organic foods found that organic foods do provide health advantages by way of reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children, even reporting “sound evidence” that organic foods contain more vitamin C and phosphorus. According to the report, “in terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease. Organic farming has been demonstrated to have less environmental impact than conventional approaches.” It also goes on to note that organic farming can be competitive and yields comparable to those of conventional farming techniques. AAP also recommends that “pediatricians should incorporate this evidence when discussing the health and environmental impact of organic foods and organic farming while continuing to encourage all patients and their families to attain optimal nutrition and dietary variety.” Another recent study reports that more nutritional antioxidants and far fewer toxic pesticides are found in organic foods

organicfoodregionIn order to understand the importance of eating organic food from the perspective of toxic pesticide contamination, we need to look at the whole picture—from the farmworkers who do the valuable work of growing food, to the waterways from which we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. The adoption of organic methods, particularly no-till organic, is an opportunity for farming both to mitigate agriculture’s contributions to climate change and to cope with the effects that change has on agriculture. Good organic practices can both reduce fossil fuel use and provide carbon sequestration in the soil through increased soil organic carbon. Higher organic soil carbon levels then increase fertility and the soil’s ability to endure extreme weather years.

Further, organic food can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture. A growing organic sector is important as it creates healthier options for consumers, better working conditions for farmworkers, and a more sustainable environment. Additionally, organic agriculture prohibits the use of genetically engineered (GE) organisms, an issue many Americans are growing more concerned about. As organic continues to grow it is important to maintain our high organic standards to maintain consumer trust in the organic label.

It is important to protect the benefits that organic agriculture can provide by ensuring that organic standards are strong. However, there have been dramatic changes to the process that governs organic standards and the review of allowable materials in organic production, as overseen by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) under the Organic Foods Production Act, which undermines the integrity of organic. Consumer and environmental groups have voiced concerns that the new procedures create less rigorous review requirements, weakening the policies that have been in place for over 15 years and adopted by U.S. Department of Agriculture without any public input or consultation with the NOSB.

With more and more American eating organic it is important to take action to ensure a strong organic program and increase public trust in the organic food label. Visit Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organics page for information on what you can do to secure an organic future. To learn more about the environmental and worker benefits of organic production, see Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience.

Source: The Washington Post

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19
Aug

FDA Questioned Triclosan’s Safety in Colgate’s Total Toothpaste in 90’s

(Beyond Pesticides, August 19, 2014) Newly released documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveals that regulators expressed concerns over the safety of triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste during the product’s registration in the mid-1990s. This information was provided to the public by FDA after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and was posted on the agency’s website after inquiries from Bloomberg News. In addition to health effects previously identified by Beyond Pesticides, these documents raise concerns about the use of triclosan as an anti-gingivitis agent in toothpaste; a use which is not currently under scrutiny as FDA conducts its long-awaited health review of the chemical.

Although FDA is requiring manufacturers of triclosan-containing soaps to prove that their products are not hazardous to humans and more effective than regular soap and water, triclosan formulated in toothpaste was not subject to a similar requirement as FDA had indicated that the chemical is effective as an anti-gingivitis agent. Colgate Total is the only brand of toothpaste on the market that still contains triclosan; GlaxoSmithKline, producer of Aquafresh and Sensodyne, removed triclosan from its toothpaste in 2009. And a focus on safer products seems to be paying off. Last year, as Colgate Total lost 2% of its market share, the company’s natural Tom’s of Maine brand grew 14%. Crest, maker of the top selling 3D White and Pro-Health brands, specifically advertises its toothpastes as triclosan-free.

FDA documents reveal that regulators considered the initial carcinogenicity studies conducted by Colgate to be insufficient, and requested further data and research. Following an inquiry from Bloomberg News, the agency released the supplemental 1997 cancer study requested of Colgate. However, concerns still remain over whether the agency’s requests and Colgate’s data were as thorough as they should have been. David Kessler, M.D, an FDA commissioner from 1990-1997, noted to Bloomberg News, “The real question is did Colgate do a good job.”

Another issue within the documents was developmental studies that showed malformed paw bones and skulls in the fetal offspring of rats, as well as lower weight fetuses. These effects were cited as incidental in the documents, and attributed to maternal, rather than fetal toxicity. In light of recent scientific data on the health effects of triclosan, many are criticizing the agency’s determination and chastising it for not releasing this data sooner. “Wow. They kept that private?” said Thomas Zoeller, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts to Bloomberg News. “The distinction between maternal and fetal toxicity is an excuse to do nothing. And it’s not scientifically justifiable.” Disclosing these results may have been helpful in alerting scientists to the endocrine disrupting properties of triclosan.

This data also highlights a pervasive problem with chemical regulation in the U.S.; specifically, the government’s reliance on industry-funded studies in order to assess the safety of chemicals. The long, expensive process of registering a new drug or pesticide often requires years of time and tens of thousands of dollars. The high monetary and temporal requirements needed to register a chemical can lead regulators to dismiss independent science that raises safety concerns (chemical mixtures, synergistic effects, certain health endpoints such as endocrine disruption, disproportionate effects to vulnerable population groups) not accounted for during regulatory decision-making. In an age where the adverse effects of safety-tested chemicals have been widely and increasingly documented, Beyond Pesticides supports an alternative approach that first asks whether there is a less toxic way of achieving a chemical’s intended purpose. The Fund for Independent Science was launched last year to support the continual understanding of the destructive capacity of toxic materials, and sustainable practices that can replace them in the marketplace.

The health and environmental effects of triclosan reveal a laundry list of concerns, ranging from body burden to endocrine disruption, cancer, impacts on fetal development, bacterial resistance, impaired muscle functioning, persistence in the environment, and adverse changes in biotic communities. Although FDA indicates that the agency will release a determination concerning triclosan-containing soaps by 2016, the agency indicated to Bloomberg News that it will only reexamine the registration of Total if concerns are found during the broader review process.

In the meantime, concerned consumers can join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Consider a clean sweep of all products in your house, school, and office that contain triclosan. A non-comprehensive list of triclosan-containing products is available here for reference, but the best way to find out if triclosan is present is to read the label. Encourage your local schools, government agencies, and businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to follow the lead of Minnesota by banning triclosan; organizations can adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

Source: Bloomberg News

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18
Aug

Following Lawsuit, EPA Restores Stream Buffers to Protect Salmon from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, August 18, 2014) In a victory for environmental groups, conservationists, and fishing groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a settlement last Wednesday to restore no-spray buffer zones around waterways to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead from five toxic pesticides.  An initial agreement was reached in June, when it underwent public comment, and was ultimately filed August 13 without any substantive changes. The settlement follows litigation filed by Earthjustice, representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and Defenders of Wildlife, back in 2010 that called for EPA adoption of reasonable fish protections from the insecticides. The buffers apply to salmon habitat throughout California, Oregon, and Washington to prohibit aerial spraying of broad-spectrum pesticides diazinon, chlorpyrifos, malathion, carbaryl, and methomyl within 300 feet of salmon habitat and prohibit ground-based applications within 60 feet.10616438_10154454218690654_3587640724273681696_n

“Poisoning salmon rivers puts our people out of work while creating an unnecessary and expensive public health hazard,” said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a West Coast commercial fishing industry trade association and co-plaintiff. “This agreement helps the coastal and inland communities that depend on salmon for their livelihoods and provides more certainty for landowners on safer use of these chemicals.”

The agreement provides detailed notice to state regulators, pesticide applicators, farmers, and the public about the required no-spray buffer zones. These buffers will remain in place until the National Marine Fisheries Service completes analyses of the impacts of these five pesticides on the fish. Then, the EPA must implement permanent protections grounded in the Fisheries Service’s findings.

“Before this agreement, we lacked clear or consistent rules to protect the health of our rivers and salmon fisheries from these toxins,” said Steve Mashuda, an Earthjustice attorney representing coalition. “This clears the road for the EPA and the Fisheries Service to continue to work together toward permanent protections that keep pesticides out of our waters.”

The chemicals regulated under the new buffer zones are not only dangerous to salmon; they pose a significant threat human health, other wildlife, and the environment at large. Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, aquatic life, and certain species of algae. There are also a wide range of adverse environmental effects linked to chlorpyrifos, including toxic to: beneficial insects, freshwater fish, other aquatic organisms, and birds, variety of plants, soil organisms, and domestic animals. It has been shown to bioaccumulate in fish and synergistically reacts with other chemicals. Diazinon is a moderately acutely toxic broad-spectrum insecticide. Like chlorpyrifos, diazinon affects the nervous system through the inhibition of AchE, an enzyme needed for proper nervous system function. Methomyl is a highly toxic compound in EPA toxicity class I, is highly toxic to birds, and moderately to highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates. Repeated exposure to small amounts of methomyl may cause an unsuspected inhibition of cholinesterase, resulting in flu-like symptoms, such as weakness, lack of appetite, and muscle aches. EPA has classified malathion as a toxicity class III pesticide. Despite the fact that malathion is one of the less acutely toxic synthetic pesticides, numerous human poisoning have been reported. It is slightly toxic via the oral route and dermal route. Malathion is rapidly and effectively absorbed by practically all routes, including the gastrointestinal tract, skin, mucous membranes, and lungs. Carbaryl causes an array of serious neurotoxic effects in animals, including irreversible neurological damage and behavioral disturbances.

The buffers reinstated under the agreement were previously required by a 2004 court order after the federal courts ordered EPA to consult with the Fisheries Service over the impacts of these chemicals on the imperiled salmon. That injunction expired when the Fisheries Service completed its analysis of these chemicals in 2008 and 2009. While the Fisheries Service required EPA to adopt extensive permanent protections to keep these deadly chemicals out of salmon streams within one year, the agency failed to take action, leaving salmon and steelhead with no protection from these neurotoxic chemicals. The agreement resolves litigation filed by these groups in 2010 to compel EPA to adopt permanent protective measures in line with the Fisheries Service’s findings. This settlement will end years of litigation and save taxpayer money by allowing the EPA to focus its resources on permanent solutions.

Clean water is essential for human health, wildlife and a balanced environment; however water is being polluted at extremely high rates with chemicals, pesticides, nutrients, metals and other contaminants. According to Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database, over 50 pesticides are known surface or groundwater contaminants, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Read Organic Land Management and the Protection of Water Quality, a fully cited fact sheet by Beyond Pesticides, or download our shorter, bi-fold brochure version for more in depth information on how organic practices can protect water quality.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: EarthJustice
Image: Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides

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15
Aug

Oregon Law Allowing Contamination from Farm and Forest Practices Challenged

(Beyond Pesticides, August 15, 2014) Residents of Southern Oregon are tired of being told that farming and forest industry rights to pollute and spray toxic chemicals trump their rights to live healthy lives, so they are taking the matter to court, except not in the way most would assume. Because unlike many instances where citizens could allege nuisance and trespass for toxic or smelly invasions onto private property and into their lives, Oregon residents and many others across the country are prohibited by law from filing such claims against agricultural industries.

Known generally as Right-to-Farm Acts, Oregon’s Farm and Forest Practices Act prohibits local laws from making farming and forest practices a nuisance or trespass. The law also grants immunity from private actions, unless, of course, severe injury or death resulted. As one of the attorneys, Chris Winters of the Crag Law Center, representing the Oregon residents explained to reporters, “The law basically grants an immunity to people who spray pesticides from being held responsible.”

In filing the lawsuit, plaintiffs hope that a court will change all of this and invalidate the Farm and Forest Practices Act as unconstitutional, because of the state’s constitutional guarantee of remedy for injury to person, property, or reputation.

The environmental and public health saga that led up to the constitutional challenge began in October 2013, when residents of Curry County, Oregon filed a complaint with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) concerning a series of aerial spraying of pesticides on adjacent forest industry land. The complaint alleged that surrounding residents noticed strange smells during fly-overs and reported accompanying symptoms such as skin rashes, nausea, and headaches.

After ODA’s initial investigation, no action was taken against the pesticide applicator or industry responsible. Unwilling to settle for ODA’s inaction and tepid investigation, affected residents supported by the environmental organization of Beyond Toxics, filed a petition with the Oregon Attorney General, requesting ODA to release information concerning the initial investigation. The petition worked and spurred ODA’s second investigation, in which the agency found multiple violations on the part of the pesticide applicator, as well as evidence of the presence of pesticides on the adjacent properties like 2,4-D and triclopyr.

This week, the state issued a $20,000 fine to Owen and Pacific Air Research, the applicator company responsible for the spraying, and revoked the company’s license for “gross negligence and willful misconduct” in regards to state pesticide law. While those are the maximum civil penalties provided for under Oregon’s pesticide laws, residents that have suffered from the impacts of the rogue pesticide application and the ordeal of making sure pesticide regulations were upheld feel violated and want more options to address such violations for not only themselves, but any future victims.

Beyond Pesticides supports the efforts of residents everywhere to stand up for public health and environmental rights and protect their communities and properties from chemical trespass. Visit our website to learn more about the negative impacts of pesticides on communities and what you can do to support those fighting for change!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting

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14
Aug

Report Finds Banned, Illegal Pesticides in Popular Indian Tea Brands

(Beyond Pesticides, August 14, 2014) Pesticides are not the first thing to pop into mind when peering into a hot mug of steaming, pale green or murky black tea first thing in the morning. A recent report published by Greenpeace India announced the results of an investigation that tested for pesticide residues in branded tea. The verdict? Nearly 94% of the tea samples tested contained at least one of 34 different pesticides, while over half contained a toxic cocktail of more than 10 different pesticides. The residues found include DDT, which was banned for use in agriculture in India since 1989, and endosulfan, which was banned in 2011 by the Indian Supreme Court. Over half of the 49 samples contained illegal pesticides – either those that are not approved for use in tea cultivation or exceeded recommended limits.

These pesticides include ones that have been long banned from agriculture and use in tea cultivation (DDT and triazophos), suspected mutagens and neurotoxicants (monocrotophos), and insecticides associated with the global decline in bee populations (neonicotinoids like thiacloprid and thiamethoxam). The most frequently detected pesticides include thiamethoxam (78%), cypermethrin (73%), acetamiprid (67%), thiacloprid (67%), DDT (67%), deltamethrin (67%), dicofol (61%), imidacloprid (61%), and monocrotophos (55%).

Approximately 60%, or 29 of the 49, of the samples contained at least one pesticide residue above the Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) set by the European Union (EU), while 37% of the samples exceeded these levels by more than 50%. One sample was tainted with tebufenpyrad at over 10 times the MRL. Tebufenpyrad, a pyrazole miticides/insecticide, does not appear to have been registered for use in India. Other unapproved pesticides found include monocrotophos, classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a Class lb (highly hazardous) pesticide; the pesticide has not been registered for use on tea at the government level due to its WHO designation. Methamidophos, found in two samples, is another WHO Class Ib pesticide and is not registered in India for any use; its parent compound, acephate, is not approved for use on tea crops, either. Triazophos is also a WHO Class Ib pesticide that is not approved for use on tea in India, although it is registered. The organophosphate was found in five samples with levels exceeding MRLs.

Other pesticides of concern include neonicotinoid insecticides, which are associated with pollinator decline. Of the ones detected in the samples, only thiacloprid and thiamethoxam are registered for use on tea. However, acetamiprid, which was found in 67% of samples, in many cases exceeding its MRL values, suggests that the unapproved use of this chemical in tea cultivation may be extensive. Imidacloprid is another neonicotinoid that has not been approved for use in tea cultivation, yet was found in 61% of samples.

A total of 49 branded and packaged teas were sampled from retail outlets in four major Indian cities (Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, and Kolkata) and were tested for the presence of over 350 different pesticides. The samples come from eight out of the top 11 companies that make up a large part of the tea market in India, including Hindustan Unilever Limited, a subsidiary of the global multinational company Unilever, and Tata Global Beverages Limited. Popular brands included in the study Twinings and Lipton.

As the second largest tea producer after China and the fourth largest exporter of tea globally, these results have far-reaching implications, one of them being that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to allow residues of banned pesticides on food products from other countries. In 2013, EPA made the decision to allow residues of endosulfan on imported Chinese teas until July 31, 2016. Its decision to provide “additional time to transition to an alternative to endosulfan” raises serious concerns of further exposure to the toxic carcinogen for farmworkers and consumers. In May 2011, endosulfan was added to the Stockholm Convention’s list of banned substances, and almost 80 countries have banned the pesticide in recognition of its impacts to human health and the environment.

Despite also being banned for production, use, and sale throughout India following a 2011 Supreme Court decision (although still registered for use by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC)), endosulfan was found in about 8% of tea samples in the Greenpeace investigation.

Additional concerns brought up by the report include the effects of these pesticides on pesticide applicators and other workers, non-target organisms, the pesticide treadmill, and on water and soil quality.

To ensure that the tea you’re drinking is not contaminated with endosulfan or other pesticides, consumers should protect themselves by purchasing USDA Organic Certified products when possible. Beyond Pesticides encourages people, through Eating with a Conscience, to choose organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a chemical-intensive food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Food program page.

Source: Deccan Herald, Greenpeace

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

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13
Aug

Chemical-Intensive Potato Grower Cuts Pesticide Use, While Organic Methods Take Root

(Beyond Pesticides, August 13, 2014) The largest potato grower in the U.S. is finding that using fewer pesticides is better for business and the environment. R.D. Offutt Company cut pesticide use by 30 percent last year, pleasing concerned local residents and environmentalists who have complained about pesticide drift from its fields. The company notes that it is applying a more scientific approach to potato production in an effort to move away from the old approach to pesticide spraying.

potatoholdR.D. Offutt Company, a Fargo-based company established in 1964, is a 190,000-acre farming operation that employs 1,500 people, with more than 3,000 acres in north central Minnesota. Now in response to local residents who have complained for years about pesticide spray drifting off fields and other environmental concerns, Offutt is rethinking the way it grows potatoes and uses pesticides. The company has begun to apply a more scientific approach to potato production, using computer and modeling systems to monitor its potato fields every day for moisture, plant growth and signs of disease. Additionally, Offutt is also planting potato varieties that are more disease-resistant and has altered its crop rotation to lower pesticide use. Potatoes are susceptible to a variety of insects and disease and so, to efforts to reduce incidence of disease, the company has begun to grow potatoes on a field every four years instead of three years. This is because allowing at least one year between crops, the potential for disease causing fungus in the soil reduces by 50 percent.

“There’s no question the old approach to pesticide spraying is no longer acceptable, company agronomist Nick David. “Farming is not gut feeling anymore…Farming is very much real time, field by field.” he said.

Many local residents are pleased that the potential for pesticide drift has lessened. But others would like to see the Offutt’s pesticide use cut even more. One local, Carol Ashley, is a longstanding critic of Offutt farms and founding member of the coalition Toxic Taters. She said pesticide drift from Offutt affected her health and forced her to move 20 miles away. She hopes the company would one day transition to organic farming. Ms. Ashley’s group, Toxic Taters, delivered a petition with more than 20,000 signatures this spring, calling on fast food giant, McDonald’s, to cut pesticide use on potatoes, work with a third party to certify the transition to sustainable practices, increase transparency about pesticide use and fund a public health study in areas impacted by potato production. In 2009, McDonald’s pledged to find ways that reduce pesticide use on the potatoes it purchases.

In addition to pesticide drift, there are also concerns of Offutt’s other impacts on the environment. The company’s plan to grow potatoes less often on each field means more fields are needed, and so Offutt is turning some former forest lands into irrigated potato fields. This has drawn criticism from environmentalists and state officials who bemoan the loss of forest lands.

This summer the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) responded to those complaints with new pesticide best management practices aimed at reducing pesticide drift from potato fields. These management practices recommended by MDA include selecting spray equipment that reduce drift, and being aware of environmental conditions. However, for many pesticides used on potatoes, especially fungicides, it is not the application method that leads to drift, but simply the nature of the product itself. Many fungicides are highly volatile, meaning they easily vaporize off the field, enter the air and move with the wind, sometimes for many miles. Unfortunately, volatilization from fields has been an issue not adequately addressed in the past by relevant local authorities and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and volatilization off fields has been documented to impact nearby residents and farm worker communities. Under pressure to protect these vulnerable communities, EPA published for comment a document outlining its criteria to consider volatilization as part of the pesticide risk assessment process in spring 2014. Hopefully, risks posed to human health and the environment would finally be incorporated into the pesticide review process.

Potatoes are a heavy user of pesticides and use more pounds of pesticides per acre than most crops. Farmers often spray on a weekly basis, or even more frequently to try to prevent blight. They also spray herbicides to kill the tops of the plants at the end of the growing season to make the underground tubers easier to harvest. According to Beyond Pesticides’ Eating with a Conscience database, there are 78 pesticides with established tolerance for potatoes, 30 acutely toxic creating a hazardous environment for farmworkers, 69 are linked to chronic health problems (such as cancer), 21 contaminate streams or groundwater, and 70 are poisonous to wildlife, including ethoprop, mancozeb, chlorothalonil, EPTC and metribuzin. Many leach to groundwater and contaminate surface waters.

Meanwhile, organic production systems have shown that potatoes can be grown without toxic pesticides. These systems nurture plant health through biologically active soil that supplies necessary nutrients, and the adoption of cultural practices like rotations, cultivation techniques, cover crops, and timing of planting. Without changes to the management system, continued reliance on toxic pesticides continues. Certified organic practices and allowed materials in organic agriculture undergo a strict public review process under the guidance of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which is now being undermined by USDA policies that weaken the review process and public oversight. See Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organic webpage to see how you can get involved to ensure the growth of organic potato production and all crops. For more information on organic production, see Beyond Pesticides’ organic agriculture webpage.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Bismarck Tribune

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12
Aug

Triclosan Found in Pregnant Mothers’ Bodies Transfers to Fetus

(Beyond Pesticides, August 12, 2014) The presence of triclosan in soaps and consumer products ranging from cutting boards to pencils means constant exposure to a chemical linked to a wide range of adverse health effects. New data to be presented at the 248th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, reveals that 100% of pregnant women in a multiethnic urban population in Brooklyn, New York tested positive for triclosan in their urine. In half of the pregnant women tested, the chemical also showed up in umbilical cord blood.

Pregnant_womanwiki“We looked at the exposure of pregnant women and their fetuses to triclosan and triclocarban, two of the most commonly used germ-killers in soaps and other everyday products,” says study co-author Benny Pycke, Ph.D at Arizona State University. “We found triclosan in all of the urine samples from the pregnant women that we screened. We also detected it in about half of the umbilical cord blood samples we took, which means it transfers to fetuses.”

In 2004, Beyond Pesticides published The Ubiquitous Triclosan, sounding the alarm on the rising use of an antibacterial chemical never adequately evaluated for adverse effects by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (while FDA regulates the use of triclosan and other antibacterials in soaps, washes, deodorants and other similar consumer goods, EPA regulates the use of triclosan as a pesticide, such as in anti-bacterial impregnated products like clothing and carpets). Within a short period of time, triclosan made its way into over 2,000 everyday consumer products. “If you cut off the source of exposure, eventually triclosan and triclocarban would quickly be diluted out, but the truth is that we have universal use of these chemicals, and therefore also universal exposure,” notes lead author of the recent study Rolf Halden, Ph.D at Arizona State University.

Previous studies also found triclosan to be present in the bodies of pregnant women. A 2011 study funded by the US Centers for Disease Control found levels of triclosan in pregnant women to be higher than those in non-pregnant women. A study published in 2010 by the University of Florida (UF) raised concerns about triclosan’s endocrine disrupting properties inhibiting proper fetal development. Margaret James, PhD, lead author of the UF study noted, “We suspect that makes this substance dangerous in pregnancy if enough of the triclosan gets through to the placenta to affect the enzyme. We know for sure it is a very potent inhibitor. What we don’t know is the kinds of levels you would have to be exposed to see a negative effect. If this process is interrupted then we wonder if that might affect how the fetus develops. There is a chance it may not produce some of the proteins that it should during development. Therefore there might be a chance at either growth retardation or something worse happening to the fetus.” The chemical also raises concerns immediately after birth. A 2008 study by Swedish researchers found triclosan in the breast milk of nursing mothers. The sum of these reports is especially concerning given a recent study showing that few doctors educate pregnant women on the dangers of environmental toxins.

Last year, FDA announced that it will require manufacturers of antibacterial soaps and body washes to prove that their products are both safe for long-term use and more effective than regular bar soap in order to remain on the market. EPA is accelerating the registration review of triclosan, and both agencies are collaborating to understand the health effects of the chemical. The state of Minnesota has not waited for a federal response to triclosan; earlier this year Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill to prohibit the sale of triclosan-containing soaps and body washes within the state.

Meanwhile, private companies are phasing out triclosan from products due to direct pressure from educated consumers. Johnson & JohnsonProcter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive began reformulating to remove triclosan from their products for several years now. Avon joined these companies earlier in 2014, announcing  it will begin phasing the chemical out of “the few” products in its line that include it.

Beyond Pesticides urges concerned consumers to join the ban triclosan campaign and sign the pledge to stop using triclosan today. Read the label of personal care products in order to avoid those containing triclosan. Encourage your local schools, government agencies, and local businesses to use their buying power to go triclosan-free. Urge your municipality, school, or company to adopt the model resolution which commits to not procuring or using products containing triclosan.

For additional information on the human health and environmental effects of triclosan, see Beyond Pesticides’ Antibacterials program page. And for further information on how to protect your baby form pesticides and other harmful chemicals, see Beyond Pesticides Information for New Moms webpage.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: American Chemical Society Press Release

Image Source: Wikimedia

 

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11
Aug

Vermont Law School Becomes First BEE Protective Campus!

(Beyond Pesticides, August 11, 2014) Vermont Law School announced Friday that its campus is going neonicotinoid pesticide-free, making it the first higher-education campus in the country to earn official recognition from the BEE Protective Campaign, led by Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety. The university joins an expanding list of communities across the country to take action to protect pollinators in the absence of federal regulation, including Eugene, ORSpokane, WA, and most recently, Shorewood, Minnesota.FBBEEProtectiveVLS

“We are very pleased that Vermont Law School has taken the lead on going neonic-free, and hope other universities and communities will follow suit,” said Nichelle Harriott, Senior Staff Scientist at Beyond Pesticides.

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. These systemic pesticides, which move through the plant’s vascular system and express themselves through pollen and nectar, include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam. A growing body of science has implicated neonicotinoids, which are applied to or incorporated into seeds for agricultural, ornamental and garden plants, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs. Beekeepers across the country reported losses of 40-90 percent of their bees last winter.

“Honey bees and other pollinators play a critical role in agricultural systems,” said Laurie Ristino, director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and VLS associate professor of law. “Protecting their health and safety is a reflection of Vermont Law School’s commitment to the environment and CAFS’ mission to support sustainable food and agricultural systems. We hope more will follow our lead.”

“This is a historic day for pollinators,” said Larissa Walker, Pollinator Campaign Director at Center for Food Safety. “For the first time, a major university is taking steps to provide a sanctuary for the bees. Pollinators are too important to wait for the situation to get worse. We applaud Vermont Law School and thank them for their leadership. We look forward to many more institutions joining the movement and pledging to go neonic-free.”

BEE Protective in Your Community

One in every three bites of food we eat are reliant on bees, and pollinators contribute between $20-30 billion in agricultural production annually in the U.S. The decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. Encourage your own community or campus to be pollinator-friendly and make changes that will protect your local pollinator population. Get the Model Community Pollinator Resolution in the hands of local elected officials or school administrators. For help with your campaign, contact Beyond Pesticides.

National Efforts to BEE Protective

As EPA continues to stall, Beyond Pesticides, along with other groups are working to BEE Protective. Last year, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and others filed a lawsuit against EPA on its continued registration of these chemicals. The groups are also working to pressure on lawmakers in Congress to take action to protect pollinators with the Saving America’s Pollinator Act, H.R. 2692, introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), is gaining support in the House. The bill aims to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of the scientific evidence has been conducted that demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. Get your Representative to support this bill!

BEE Protective is a national campaign established by Beyond Pesticides and Center for Food Safety, which serves as a national public education effort supporting local action aimed at protecting honey bees and other pollinators from pesticides and contaminated landscapes. BEE Protective includes a variety of resources  to encourage municipalities, campuses, and homeowners to adopt policies that protect pollinators from bee-toxic pesticides. For more information on how to truly bee protective, join our campaign and take action at www.BeeProtective.org.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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08
Aug

New Wave of Herbicide-Tolerant Crops Awaiting Likely U.S. Approval

(Beyond Pesticides, August 8, 2014) Despite the continued documentation of weed resistance all over the United States, as well as the world, another line of herbicide-tolerant crops developed by Monsanto is currently in the pipeline awaiting likely approval by U.S. regulators. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on Tuesday, which, according to regulators, will pave the way for the approval of new genetically modified cotton and soybean plants tolerant to a mixture of the herbicides glyphosate and dicamba.

Monsanto’s new soybean and cotton crops were developed to withstand their new herbicide formulation, called Roundup Xtend, which combines the pesticides dicamba and glyphosate. The “Roundup Ready Xtend crop system” was developed to curb the proliferation of millions of acres of weeds that have grown resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup, which has been used on the company’s biotech corn, soybeans, and cotton.

Weed resistance due to cropping systems dependent on herbicides has been documented for years, making APHIS’ conclusions in the EIS all the more alarming. A report that Beyond Pesticides published 12 years ago, “The Environmental Risks of Transgenic Crops: An Agroecological Assessment is the failed pesticide paradigm being genetically engineered?” argued that as the industry pressures to increase herbicide sales, it will increase the acreage treated with these broad-spectrum herbicides, thus exacerbating the resistance problem and keeping farmers on a “pesticide treadmill.” Additionally, the occurrence of “super weeds” coincides strongly with the use of toxic herbicides on genetically engineered (GE) crops. According to one study, “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. —the first sixteen years,” author Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., writes that the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is strongly correlated with the upward trajectory of herbicide use. Glyphosate resistance is just one of many examples where overuse on GE crops has brought about not only environmental contamination and risk to human health, but the explosion of super weeds as well.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently denied a request by Texas regulators for the emergency use of propazine to combat glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, or pigweed, citing risks to drinking water and other hazards. However, this victory only serves to highlight the work that still needs to be done. Although Texas cotton growers who use chemical-intensive practices were denied the use of this toxic chemical due to drinking water concerns, EPA states in its letter that these Texas growers had otherwise met emergency criteria. But weed resistance in GE crop fields is predictable, and should be ineligible for requests such as this. Ultimately, chemical-intensive growers in Texas and throughout the U.S. should not, as EPA suggests, simply move to another pesticide when their unsustainable practices lead to weed resistance.

The health consequences of dicamba exposure include neurotoxicity and adverse reproductive and developmental effects, while glyphosate has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, and kidney and liver damage.

In stark contrast to these ecological and health concerns, Monsanto, the patent holder of the genetically engineered seed, said that the APHIS action was “a noteworthy sign of progress.”

APHIS also issued a final EIS on Tuesday for genetically altered corn and soybean plants developed by Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company. The EIS states that the agency intends to approve the products. APHIS said back in January that it was inching toward approval for Dow’s products, which are corn and soybean strains called Enlist that resist a new herbicide that includes glyphosate and 2,4-D, also developed by Dow. 2,4-D has been linked to cancer, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and birth and developmental effects.

The final EIS on 2,4-D resistant crops will be available for public review for 30 days upon publication in the Federal Register before APHIS makes its final regulatory determination on the petition for deregulation. APHIS will publish its record of decision for the final EIS and its final regulatory determination after the conclusion of the 30-day public review period.

Regarding Monsanto’s new products, APHIS said in its Tuesday statement that farmers would see benefits, but also acknowledged that there would also likely be “an increased chance of the development of weeds resistant to dicamba.”

The draft EIS will be available for a 45-day public review and comment period upon publication by EPA in the Federal Register.

While APHIS finalizes its assessment of these GE plants, EPA is concluding its concurrent review of the related herbicides.

Pursuing sustainable alternatives can prevent the pesticide treadmill that results from the overuse of GE crops and pesticides like glyphosate. Integrated pest management strategies, organic practices, and solutions that are not chemical-intensive would be the most appropriate and long-term solution to battling pigweed. Additionally, organic agriculture is an ecologically-based management system that prioritizes cultural, biological, mechanical production practices, and natural inputs. By strengthening on-farm resources, such as soil fertility, pasture and biodiversity, organic farmers can minimize and even avoid the production challenges that most genetically engineered organisms have been falsely-marketed as solving. To learn more about organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides Organic Program Page.

Source: Reuters

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides

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07
Aug

Legacy of DDT Still Poisoning Birds and People in Michigan

(Beyond Pesticides, August 7, 2014) Residents of St. Louis, Michigan aren’t used to seeing large excavators and dump trucks haul piles of dirt from their front yards or entire blocks of big, neighborhood trees felled. What they are used to seeing are dead birds —sometimes even spontaneous, mid-flight deaths of the birds— and because of a toxic series of events, disasters, and delays spanning decades, the two sights are inextricably connected.http://cmsimg.freep.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?NewTbl=1&Site=C4&Date=20140802&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=308020116&Ref=PH&Item=7&Maxw=620&Maxh=465&q=90

As one St. Louis resident described to the Detroit Free Press, dozens of dead robins and blackbirds had been collected from her backyard in the 18 years she has lived there, with the most recent just a couple weeks ago. This experience and other similar stories from the area prompted researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) to start figuratively and literally digging.

Matt Zwiernik, Ph.D., an environmental toxicologist at MSU, and volunteers collected 29 dead birds, including 22 robins, last year from a nine-block residential area in St. Louis. The scientific sampling was only a small portion of the dead birds they could have collected, Dr. Zwiernik explained to reporters at the Detroit Free Press, as time, distance, logistics, and access to property sometimes limited collection efforts. Nevertheless, it was enough to show some alarming results.

Forensic study of the bird carcasses reveal brain and liver abnormalities in 12 of the 29 birds, and the mean total level of DDT or its breakdown components in the collected robins’ brains was 552 parts per million — some of the greatest concentrations ever recorded in wild birds, Zwiernik said. To put it in perspective, thirty parts per million of DDT are known to cause death in many bird species. In the case of the St. Louis birds, sudden death was from feeding on contaminated worms, grubs and insects, poisoned by the area’s DDT-tainted soils.

DDT is an organochlorine pesticide that was banned in the U.S. in 1972 due to its persistent and highly toxic nature. DDT was widely used to control mosquitoes for malaria abatement, and in agriculture. Despite the fact that DDT was banned in the U.S. 40 years ago, concentrations of this toxic chemical’s major metabolite, DDE, have remained alarmingly high in many ecosystems, including surface waters, the Arctic, and even U.S. national parks. This is because DDT/DDE are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes. Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, are capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissue, and biomagnify in food chains, as seen in the St. Louis birds.

Of course, unlike the many instances of DDT contamination and poisoning in humans and wildlife, the researchers and residents in St. Louis knew exactly where to look for the source of the DDT —the nearby former Velsicol Chemical factory and superfund site. According to EPA, the Velsicol Chemical Corp. (formerly the Michigan Chemical Corp.) produced various chemical compounds and products at its 54-acre main plant site in St. Louis, Michigan, from 1936 until 1978. To address contamination discovered at the former plant site (after a catastrophic plant error mixed thousands of pounds of another toxic chemical—polybrominated biphenyl (PBB))—into lifestock feed), a consent judgment was entered into by Velsicol, EPA and the State of Michigan in 1982.

Because the Pine River borders the former main plant site on three sides and was known to also be significantly contaminated, part of the settlement involved Velsicol’s agreement to construct a slurry wall around the former plant site and put a clay cap over it. The river sediment pollution was addressed at that time by the State of Michigan, which issued a no-consumption advisory for all species of fish in the Pine River. The fish advisory remains in effect today.

But despite the $100 clean-up efforts targeting the water contamination, 2006 testing revealed that soil and water remained contaminated. This in addition to the remaining clean-up efforts still needed at the factory site itself and in the surrounding soil. More studies ensued, with an eventual Feasibility Study issued in 2011 and June 2012 Record of Decision that included clean-up of residential areas and a comprehensive clean-up of the main plant sit.

To add insult to injury, because of Velsicol’s declaration of bankruptcy in 1982, its consent decree only required a contribution of $20 million to the clean-up effort —the remainder of the economic burden, past and future, being born by federal and state taxpayers.

Even more disturbing than the dead birds, dug up neighborhoods, and dumped economic responsibilities that span decades are the unaccounted for health impacts of DDT and other chemicals on the residents of the neighborhood. Organochlorines like DDT have been linked to a number of adverse effects to human health, including birth defects, breast cancer and autism. DDT has also been linked to Vitamin D deficiency, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and diabetes.

The severe delays and deficiencies in the federal and state toxic contamination clean-up process highlight the need for better precautionary measures and stricter health, environmental, and safety standards to be imposed before chemicals enter the homes, gardens, and air that surrounds us. Supporting organic systems and calling on the EPA and Congress to improve risk assessment frameworks are just a few of the steps you can take to avoid experiences like the one in St. Louis. Visit our website to learn more about pesticide impacts and what can be done to stop them before they happen!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Detroit Free Press

Image: Romain Blanquart/ Detroit Free Press. The EPA loads waste soil after excavating it from around properties contaminated with the pesticide dichlorodiphenyl trichlorethane (DDT) that stand close to the former Velsicol Chemical Corp. on Center Street in St. Louis.

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